Failure to Appear in Court
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What Does "Failure to Appear in Court" Mean?
People are required to show up to court for any number of reasons. For example, if you received a speeding ticket, have been charged with a DUI, or have been subpoenaed to appear for a trial, then you are supposed to show up in court at a certain date and time. If you do not appear in court when you are scheduled to, then you can be charged for failing to appear in court.
What Can Happen If I Fail to Appear in Court?
Failure to appear in court is a criminal offense and depending on the circumstances can result in additional fines and fees or a warrant being issued for your arrest. For example, if you sign a traffic ticket promising to appear in court at an arraignment, and do not show up, you may be guilty of a misdemeanor and a judge might issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
Once a warrant has been issued for your arrest, there are several consequences that might occur:
- If you are ever stopped by the police, a system check on your license number will alert the police that there is a warrant out for you, which will result in them arresting you.
- You may be held in contempt of court.
- Your license might be suspended until your case is closed and might result in you having to pay a fee to the DMV to reinstate your license.
- You may be held in jail after you are arrested.
- You may be denied bail
- Additional charges for failure to appear in court may be added to your original charge
What Are the Defenses for Failure to Appear in Court?
In order to find that you have failed to appear in court, the court has to prove that you had notice that you were suppose to appear in court and you willfully did not appear. Some possible defenses included:
- No Notice to Appear: The court must give you proper notice that you are set to appear in court. This notice is usually by mail. You can fight a failure to appear in court if the court failed to give you any proper notice for you to appear in court. If your address has changed and you did not receive the notice because you did not inform the court of the change of address will not excuse your failure to appear.
- Failure to Appear Was Not Willful: Your failure to appear in court was not on purpose and you did not appear in court because of a serious accident, illness, natural disaster, unforeseen circumstance that was out of your control.
Where and When Do I Appear in Court?
Once you have received a citation, which states that you must appear in court, it is important that you follow the citation orders. You must appear at the location that is indicated on the citation, release paper, bail documents, or arraignment letter given by the law agency. You can even verify the date by calling the agency and giving your information or accessing the court’s online case or calendar information.
On the information provided to you by the agency, there is a courtroom department number and hearing time that you must attend. You must arrive at the courtroom on the listed date at the exact scheduled time.
What Are the Courtroom Rules?
If you are set to appear in court for a judicial hearing, there are strict courtroom rules that you must comply with:
- Shirts and shoes are required in the courthouse
- Food, drinks, and cell phones are not allowed
- Weapons are not allowed and all visitors are subject to a weapons screening upon arrival
- All electronic pagers, cell phones, computers, tablets, and laptops must be turned off
- You must remain silent and quiet once the judicial proceedings has begun
- You cannot communicate with any inmates at any time
Do I Need an Attorney?
As you can see, a failure to appear in court can lead to severe consequences, such as imprisonment. If you have failed to appear in court you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A criminal defense lawyer can inform you of the specific consequences of failing to appear in court in your state and can help your explain to the judge why you failed to appear.
Once you have a lawyer, you should show up in court as soon as possible to turn yourself in and pay whatever fines you owe. Your lawyer will help arrange and set a pre-trial date to discuss your failure to appear in court with the District Attorney.
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Last Modified: 10-30-2014 12:27 PM PDT
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